The year 2015 has seen a good amount of phenomenal metal releases. After a great year 2014 that saw albums such as Blood in, Blood out by Exodus, Anthrax’s Chile On Hell, or Bloodstone & Diamonds by Machine Head conquering this metalhead’s heart, I didn’t think that this year could top the previous one… but it did. Here you are my 10 Best Metal Albums of 2015 selection – and yes, I decided that EPs count as well, since there are two EPs that have blown me away this year. The releases in the following list were selected and ranked purely by means of my personal taste, the amount of plays the albums or EPs have received through my ears, and by how I feel about the music when I listen to it.
#10 Raven – ExtermiNation
Raven has always been a household name in the heavy metal genre. Unfortunately, the band lost a bit of traction in the mid-2000’s, due to an accident to founding-member and guitarist Mark Gallagher. Nevertheless, the trio came back this year stronger than ever with ExtermiNation, a metal album that carries many characteristic New Wave of British Heavy Metal hymns. It is hard for me to choose the best songs on Extermination, given that the albums does not carry any fillers, only killers. However, songs like the fast-paced Scream, the head-nodding Tomorrow, and the more laid-back and more melodic Fire Burns Within give a good overview of what to expect on this diverse though highly consistent metal album. – We had the great pleasure to talk with founding-member John Gallagher (lead singer and bassist) for #fhtz during their European tour this past October, where he explained to us how Raven went about planing, financing, and recording ExtermiNation. Click here for the #fhtz interview.
#9 Annihilator – Suicide Society
Annihilator released their 15th studio album in 2015, and it marked the return to lead vocals for mastermind and guitar wizard Jeff Waters. I had lost touch with the band’s music, but have kept listening to their first three albums for the past two-plus decades, because I just love them. Suicide Society brought something old-and-new to the table, which instantaneously caught my ear. This album thrashes very concrete, fresh, and straight to the point out of my speakers, and I couldn’t have asked for more. As I wrote in the album review for Suicide Society, “There is not one song on the record that I do not like, but if I had to choose my favourite tracks those would be Snap, Creepin’ Again, and Every Minute.” – Read the Albums That Rock album review here.
#8 Butcher Babies – Take It Like A Man
I have a soft spot for old-school bands such as Annihilator, Testament, Anthrax, or Slayer, but the Butcher Babies really struck a chord with me. Especially with this album. As I have written before, “Take It Like A Man is a true manifestation of astute, brachial, and equally elegant modern-style groove metal with heavy thrash metal influences. Frontwomen Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey have improved upon the band’s earlier releases. Not that their vocal performances were not good – quite the opposite–, but they are even stronger on Take It Like A Man. It is a real art to bring melody into screaming vocals and both Heidi and Carla have mastered it better than ever before on every song now. This is especially apparent on Monster Ball, The Cleansing, and Thrown Away. ” – Read the Albums That Rock album review here.
#7 Nuclear Assault – Pounder (EP)
Thrash metal legends Nuclear Assault came back this year just in time for drummer Glenn Evans to retire in December. Fortunately, the band gave us this wonderful gift and a tour – where I got to meet Glenn for an interview and enjoy their excellent live show. The 4-song Pounder EP was recorded by the classic line-up that includes John Connelly on vocals and guitar, Dan Lilker on bass, Glenn Evans on drums, and is completed by newcomer Erik Burke on guitar. Quoting myself for the sake of it, “The recording of the Pounder EP sounds relative rough, just like thrash recordings in the 80s, which add a special nostalgic and ‘real’ feel to it these days.” This release is a must for any old-school thrash metal fan, and if you have never seen Nuclear Assault live, pray for Glenn to come back from retirement someday. – Click here to watch the interview with Glenn or click here to read the Albums That Rock album review here.
#6 Kobra and the Lotus – Words of the Prophets (EP)
I discovered Kobra and the Lotus coincidentally while searching for a movie review of 50 Shades of Grey. For reasons only Google understands, the video to their 2012 single 50 Shades of Evil appeared. I was instantaneously sold. The sound, energy, and the authenticity of this relatively young band blew me away. Fortunately, Kobra and the Lotus was able to replicate that sound, energy, and authenticity with their 2015 EP release. This past summer, the Canadian band around frontwoman Kobra Paige released the Words of the Prophets cover EP, which encompasses five classic rock and metal songs from other Canadian artists such as Triumph, April Wine, Alannah Myles, BTO, and Rush. My personal favourites on here are the Rush cover Spirit Of The Radio and the Alannah Myles classic Black Velvet. – We also caught up with Kobra Paige for #fhtz. Watch the #fhtz interview with Kobra here.
#5 Death Angel – a thrashumentary / The Bay Calls For Blood (DVD/CD)
Death Angel released a great documentary movie with a thrashumentary. But not only that. The movie comes with a superb live album, The Bay Calls For Blood, which makes this release one of my favourites of the year. I have shared my opinion about the live album in an interview with Mark Osegueda, but here again to make sure my point comes across, “the band added the live CD The Bay Calls For Blood [to the package], which in my humble opinion is one of the greatest live albums I have heard in a very long time. It captures the live atmosphere perfectly and the live mix is phenomenal. Furthermore, the songs chosen for the setlist create an excellent dynamic flow. Of course, a few classic songs seem to be missing. But hey, that is a subjective opinion and doesn’t belittle the fact that the chosen 10 tracks offer a fantastic listening experience.” – Check out the interview with Mark Osegueda here.
#4 Slayer – Repentless
In the past few years, we suffered with the band, we cried with the band, and we hoped with the band. Finally, in 2015 Slayer released Repentless, the first album since the tragic death of Jeff Hanneman. Gary Holt filled Jeff’s shoes and Paul Bostaph rejoined the band on drums (which made yours truly very happy, given the fact that Paul is one of my favourite metal drummers!). I have described Repentless as follows: Slayer’s Repentless is what I consider the epitome of a contemporary thrash metal album in 2015. The album comprises instant classics such as the title track, Chasing Death, and You Against You. I can imagine that some of the songs on this album will become metal anthems in the not too distant future. The band stays true to its roots, but the music and its production sounds contemporary. No wonder the album was the #2-best selling album in the world shortly after its release (week 39/2015), according to United World Chart; and that results in Slayer’s biggest global chart success to date. – We caught up with Paul Bostaph during Slayer’s European tour this past October. Check out the #fhtz interview here.
#3 Gus G – Brand New Revolution
The first time I heard of Gus G was in 2010 when Ozzy Osbourne released Scream. Obviously, any guitar player stepping into the shoes of Randy Rhoads, Zakk Wylde, or Jake E. Lee will be watched and scrutinised to the max. Personally, I liked Gus’ playing from the beginning, and when I discovered his solo work with Brand New Revolution he won me over. Brand New Revolution is one of my all-time favourite guitarist-albums by now. Ever since it came out, I couldn’t stop listening to it. All 12 songs on the record are jewels carefully crafted to beautiful perfection and filled with pure fire. Especially the following songs hit a nerve with me: the title-track Brand New Revolution (feat. Jacob Bunton), What Lies Below (feat. Elize Ryd), and Behind Those Eyes (feat. Jacob Bunton). The album features guest vocal appearances by Jeff Scott Soto (Yngwie Malmsteen, Journey, Talisman), Elize Ryd (Amaranthe), Jacob Bunton (Adler, Lynam) and Mats Levén (Candlemass, Yngwie Malmsteen, Treat), which brings a great deal of diversity to the music, but still keeping its context intact. Simply Wow! – We talked with Gus G for #fhtz. Check out this very interesting interview.
#2 Fear Factory – Genexus
The year 2015 marked the 20-year anniversary of Fear Factory’s Demanufacture, the album that put the band on the map. But not only. It also marks the release of their 9th studio album release, Genexus. And personally, it is my favourite Fear Factory album to date. Even though the band has stuck to the same formula of their musical context since its debut album in 1992, one can see the progression towards more carefully detailed songwriting and creation of melodies. As singer Burton C. Bell mentioned in an interview we did this past November, the band did some soul-searching in regard to songwriting for Genexus and they found that they were taking more time when writing for their albums Demanufacture, Obsolete, and Digimortal. Hence, they thought to go back to those ways to craft an album that builds upon that schema – and Genexus is the outcome.
I thought that I would never enjoy a Fear Factory album as much as Demanufacture, but the band corrected me. Genexus picks up where Demanufacture, Obsolete, and Digimortal left off. The concept of the album provides fertile ground for all songs to unfold into a futuristic butterfly. The music and the lyrics melt together in perfect harmony to create a trademark sound, and the back and forth between brachial riffs and poetic melodies found its culmination on this album. Dino Cazare’s riffs and guitar sound are unmistakable and a pure joy to listen to, and the uniqueness of Burton C. Bell’s voice coupled with the sharpest melodies Fear Factory ever composed makes Genexus an instant classic in my heavy metal collection. – Click here to check out this talk with Burton C. Bell about Demanufacture, Genexus, and The Industrialist graphic novel.
#1 Motörhead – Bad Magic
The icon band Motörhead around legendary frontman Lemmy Kilmister marked their 40-year anniversary with the release of their 22nd album Bad Magic on August 28, 2015. To quote myself, “It doesn’t matter how you get this album, as long as you actually get it. Bad Magic is one of Motörhead’s best albums in their catalogue. I haven’t been this excited in a long time while listening for the first time to a new Lemmy & Co. album. The sound provides the listener with mean guitar riffs, thumping drum beats, raw bass lines, and Lemmy’s remarkable voice. The production of the album is concise and keeps in line with the musical concept. My all-time favourite Motörhead studio albums have been Ace of Spades and 1916. However, as of today, Bad Magic will join their status.”
As I write this, Lemmy Kilmister has left the stage of life at age 70. I have to say that I usually don’t mourn people I hardly know. However, in the case of Lemmy, it must be said that Lemmy was one of the last rock ’n’ rollers left. I remember buying a second-hand copy of Motörhead’s 1984 compilation No Remorse with the little pocket money I had. The record came in a beautiful leather-sleeve. I listened to it over and over again, and I was always excited to hear the song Killed by Death. That one got me good. I couldn’t wait for Side A to finish, but I didn’t want to skip the other songs either. I’m grateful that Lemmy and Motörhead got to release this 22nd album. Bad Magic is my Heavy Metal Album of the Year 2015. Not because we lost an icon, but because the icon granted us the gift of yet another legendary record that will go down in history as the last chapter of a classic rock ’n’ roll legend.
# Honorable mentions
The year 2015 saw a great deal of heavy metal albums hitting our shelves, not only 10. Therefore, I would like to mention a few more albums that I highly recommend listening to:
- Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls
- Vinnie Moore – Aerial Visions
- Saxon – Battering Ram
- Joe Satriani – Shockwave Supernova
- Paradise Lost – The Plague Within
- W.A.S.P. – Golgotha
- The Winery Dogs – Hot Streak
These are my favourite releases of 2015. Which are yours?
I wish you all a Happy New Year 2016, and may the gods of rock and metal provide us with many wonderful albums this coming year.